Almost a Crash, Drive Carefully

Carla almost crashed the car yesterday after a heavy downpour turned a three-lane freeway slippery. The SUV swerved and covered the width of the freeway when she tried to avoid a speeding car that suddenly changed lanes. She stepped on the brakes so she wouldn’t bump the car and the SUV skidded through the highway and did what could have been a lethal pirouet in front of other speeding cars. Miraculously in that rush hour, no one got hit and the motorists behind her were alert enough to avert the potential disaster.

Good thing also that Carla did not panic and just let the brakes and the gas pedal go. If she hadn’t, the car could have flipped over or slammed straight into the walls lining the freeway. As if to remind us about road safety, we saw on that very same day an overturned vehicle of the Puerto Rico Telephone Company (see picture). Thankfully, the driver was safe but visibly shaken. It could have been worse.

Accidents could happen to anyone at any time. It helps a lot to review the basics of road safety. In these rainy days, here are a few tips from the National Safety Council on skidding and hydro-planing:

Losing control of your car on wet pavement is a frightening experience.

Skids are scary but hydroplaning is completely nerve-wracking.

Hydroplaning happens when the water in front of your tires builds up faster than your car’s weight can push it out of the way. The water pressure causes your car to rise up and slide on a thin layer of water between your tires.

Taking these simple tips into account can save your life.

  1. You can prevent skids by driving slowly and carefully, especially on curves. Steer and brake with a light touch. When you need to stop or slow, do not brake hard or lock the wheels and risk a skid. Maintain mild pressure on the brake pedal.
  2. If you do find yourself in a skid, remain calm, ease your foot off the gas, and carefully steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go. For cars without anti-lock brakes, avoid using your brakes. This procedure, known as “steering into the skid,” will bring the back end of your car in line with the front. If your car has ABS, brake firmly as you steer into the skid.
  3. Avoid hydroplaning by keeping your tires inflated correctly. Maintain good tire tread. Don’t put off replacing worn tires. Slow down when roads are wet, and stay away from puddles. Try to drive in the tire tracks left by the cars in front of you.
  4. If you find yourself hydroplaning, do not brake or turn suddenly. This could throw your car into a skid. Ease your foot off the gas until the car slows and you can feel the road again. If you need to brake, do it gently with light pumping actions. If your car has anti-lock brakes, then brake normally. The car’s computer will automatically pump the brakes much more effectively than a person can do.
  5. A defensive driver adjusts his or her speed to the wet road conditions in time to avoid having to use any of these measures.


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Focus of the Day: Trisikad or Potpot

This is a picture of a trisikad, also known as potpot, from Ginatilan, Cebu. Trisikad is a combination of two words, tri and sikad. Tri refers to the number of wheels that this vehicle has and sikad means to kick in Cebuano. In Baybay, Leyte, they are called potpot which comes from the sound of the horn attached near the handlebar grip. When the circular black rubber of the horn is squeezed, the air goes through a short and winding metal, creating a sound that is akin to a snappy honk of a goose.

The driver pinches the horn’s rubber for many reasons. When there is a “huge” traffic jam of trisikad, the sound of a hundred potpot can be heard for miles that, at times, one can mistake them for a flock of geese. Traffic comes too in these narrow rural roads, especially during the feast of the saints. The flock of trisikad slowly navigating through the mud and potholes appear like a bunch of lumbering birds. Some white as ibis with flecks of brownish mud at the bottom, others black as crows. Many are flamingo pink and kingfisher blue while quite a few are cardinal red or flycatcher yellow.

The honk also serves as a warning to other vehicles (and jaywalkers) that a speeding trisikad is on the way. If the target of the honking takes offense, s/he honks back and the honking goes back and forth: the noisy war only stops when the honking enemy is out of earshot. A long syrupy honk is reserved for prospective passengers. Anyone standing by the wayside is a potential passenger. When the person waves an arm high up in the air or flick the pointer finger down to the ground, a honk of acknowledgment is elicited and the rider is tucked inside until the destination is reached.

This small three-wheel contraption can transport up to six passengers all at the same time. If the load is too heavy, the first to give way is not the driver’s calves but the wheels, or more specifically the rim that holds the rubber tire. From a perfect circle, the tire turns into a nice figure eight, almost like a flattened waist of a corseted ballerina. But this seldom happens, the passenger at the back usually jumps out of the cab and pushes for the driver to gather momentum. For his effort, the pusher-passenger rides free of charge.

In many parts of the Philippines, this pedal-powered vehicle is the main mode of transportation, sort of like a taxi that zooms from one point to the next. Aesthetically pleasing, earth-friendly, and healthy, a trisikad plying the streets is a joy to watch. Yet their days are numbered. Sedan-riding ultramodern politicians will phase them out in the name of “development.” Soon, really soon, gas-guzzler vehicles will rule our roads. And the streets will not be ours anymore.

****an ode to Bittersweet, our potpot, which helped me and my siblings get an education.

Confessions

I had my last real confession when I was about ten. It was rather scary, that being my first and thus my inability to comprehend the necessity of the ritual. Perhaps, it was a whole mix of things—the covered faces of the rebultos, the eerie silence and seriousness of the pilgrims, the monotony of the rosaryo, the church bells and its sullen calls. There was so much gloom inside that church of Baybay, Leyte. Like a shadow, the gloom hovered over everybody that even the most active child was forced to stand down.

At that time, I remembered the long queue that stretched as far as the church door and perhaps extended far beyond to the adjacent plaza. In my thirty years on earth, that was the longest line of repentant sinners I have ever seen. Maybe that was a Good Friday or the day before Christmas. I don’t know. I sometimes get confused with these two holidays. Must’ve been Good Friday. It was a no-laughter day. Smiles were forbidden. It was almost like the saints were carrying anti-happiness placards underneath the white linen covers.

During that day also, two people were nailed on the cross earlier at the town plaza. I saw the spectacle on top of my father’s shoulders. The nailing was just about 6-10 meters away. I writhed every time the nails were pounded into their extremities. I saw how their flesh turned white—like the whiteness of pork fat—as the nail wormed its way through the tendons and down into the wood. Minutes later the head of the nails turned crimson with the penitentes sacrifice. Ladies in white mourned wildly, flailing their arms, kneeling before the Christ who is not Christ but is Christ. I shed a tear. I don’t know for whom. For the penitentes who nailed themselves hoping for redemption? For Christ ensconced in that gloomy Church and who has lived happily ever after? For my 10-year old self who will be confessing later on about that stolen 20 pesos I used to buy flowers and candies for the girl I admire?

But I digress. Standing beside my mother, I waited for my turn at that confession box. One after another, people came out with heads bowed like that of Atlas. Then my turn came. I knelt before a
screened peephole, waiting for the signal to start the confession. When the peephole opened, the priest mumbled those garbled words—his mouth covered with the same white linen that the saints used for cover. My litany of errors came forth, punctuated with sighs and sobbing. It was Good Friday. Not Christmas.

blogging

I haven’t been blogging for a while though I enjoyed it a while back. I started writing online as a contributor to cyberjournalism sites. Those days, my writing output (albeit few) was mostly politically-oriented: dealing with global and local issues that I felt were important.

Now that am transplanted from the Pacific to the Caribbean, I would like to share my insights and experiences to my family, friends, and maybe a tiny slice of the online world. This is my way of finding a cozy online getaway where I can be zen-like reflexive or just plainly be chewing the cud.

Well, I decided to blog because somehow the situation that am in gives me a certain angle, a prism if you will, of what Caribbean life is like. So, carpe diem it is.